Nov 282012
 

The term “bosun”, a sailorly contraction of the Old English “boatswain”, implies widely different roles from one vessel to another. On some ships the bosun is an officer; on others a rig specialist. Even the translation is debated: some sources say a “swain” was an attendant, while others give a more romantic definition of “lover”. (I like to say I’m the ship’s husband…) Regardless, on Clearwater, the bosun cares for the traditional aspects of the rig, which includes regular inspections for safety concerns.

I thought some people out there might be interested in what my monthly rig checks involve. When I was mate on the Bill of Rights and had never before done a rig check, it felt like a vast and unconquerable task. There is so much to a boat! Brion Toss gives an elegantly succinct description in “The Rigger’s Apprentice” of what a rig-check on a boat involves, boiled down to four main points:

1. If it fastens two things together, it will try its damndest to wiggle itself loose.

2. If it touches something else, it will chafe the hell out of either itself or the thing it touches.

3. If it’s metal, it will either crumble in the face of whatever other metal is around it, or else it will mercilessly corrode everything it touches.

4. If it’s loose, it will inevitably catch, snag and tear.

With this as a guide, I examine the rig from stem to stern, topmast to hull. Before leaving Clearwater for the season, I was able to snap some shots of some of the things I look for in rig checks. Aside from these things, I am always and especially looking for loose nuts, rusty or non-existent mousings (wire lashings to secure pins in shackles), pins backing out of shackles, loose lashings in the bow net or shrouds, and squeaky blocks. All of these could result in injury if not attended to before they become a problem.

A type of line degradation called "long jawing", in which, due to deformation, only one or two strands of the line take the full load.

A type of line degradation called “long jawing”, in which, due to deformation, only one or two strands of the line take the full load.

A "whipping" sews up the end of a line to neatly keep it from unraveling. When you make a sailor's whipping, which involves a palm and needle, you never imagine it could someday become worn to uselessness.

A “whipping” sews up the end of a line to neatly keep it from unraveling. When you make a sailor’s whipping, which involves a palm and needle, you never imagine it could someday become worn to uselessness!

Early signs of wear in a long splice.

Early signs of wear in a long splice.

Small holes in the head of the mainsail can easily turn into big holes if not attended to.

Small holes in the head of the mainsail can easily turn into big holes if not attended to.

 

Nov 192012
 

Recently in preparation for the winter, and as part of a regular maintenance schedule, we pulled Clearwater’s centerboard. For those of you who aren’t tall-ship experienced, I’ll try my best to explain what a centerboard is, how it works, and how we pulled it. I’ll let the photos explain the rest.

The centerboard is a 15 or so foot long retractable keel whose forward end pivots on a point inside the hull about a third of the way from the bow. The pivot point is inside the centerboard “trunk”, which is basically a big, framed out hollow in the middle of the boat, a bit like a wheel well. It is raised and lowered by a winch on a cable attached to the after end, at about the middle of the boat.

To pull the centerboard, lines are attached to the tops of the forward and after ends, and then run through blocks on deck. The board is hoisted a little to take the weight off the pin, and then on either side of the centerboard trunk, large metal caps are unscrewed to reveal the pivot point, out of which a large pin must be driven. As you may have guessed, removing these caps allows large amounts of water to pour into the boat, so time is of the essence. Plexiglass and a flashlight are used on either side to line up the openings in the trunk with the one in the centerboard. When you are thoroughly soaked and grateful that you vacuumed out the bilges so the bilge pumps wouldn’t get clogged, you drive out the pin and pop those caps back on. Then you take a breath.

The rest is gravy…lower the board, then run a “lazy line” under the hull to catch the lines the centerboard is hanging on, pull them to the other side, and haul up the board!

Lines are attached to both ends of the centerboard.

Lines are attached to both ends of the centerboard, forward…

The anchor bend.

…and aft. We chose to use the anchor bend.

Hoisting the centerboard to prepare for pulling the pin.

Hoisting the centerboard to prepare for pulling the pin.

Positioning the pipe wrench.

Positioning the pipe wrench.

When WD40, a four foot lever, and three grown sailors don't do trick, try heat.

When WD40, a four foot lever, and three grown sailors don’t do trick, try heat.

Next time, never seize.

Next time, never seize.

The cap is off! Using plexi-glass and a flashlight to align the hole in the centerboard with the hole in the trunk.

The cap is off! Using plexi-glass and a flashlight to align the hole in the centerboard with the hole in the trunk.

Flashlight.

Flashlight.

Driving out the pin.

Driving out the pin.

Waiting for the centerboard.

Waiting for the centerboard.

First sighting...

First sighting…

The centerboard is up!

The centerboard is up!

Clearwater with centerboard alongside.

Oct 232012
 

We had a great transit up to Beacon the other day. It was cold, wet and windy, but we made the best of it (see photos below). And to top off a fantastic sail up the river, Captain Nick walked up to me as we neared out destination and told me that as long as it wasn’t too windy, he wanted me to take the boat in. It was a first for me, not just on Clearwater, but ever. I felt a twinge of nervousness, but excitement about attempting to maneuver 108 feet of traditional tall-ship to the dock prevailed.

Nick was the most fantastic teacher, letting me call the shots and try out my instincts as much as possible, but with full assurance that he would step in if necessary.  And it went great! I didn’t crash the boat, and Nick didn’t need to do too much, but more importantly I felt really good at the helm. I’ve docked her twice more since then, and I can’t wait for another chance.

Clearwater approaches the George Washington Bridge during a north-bound transit up the Hudson.

Clearwater approaches the George Washington Bridge during a north-bound transit up the Hudson. An overcast sky, half-hearted drizzle, and gusty winds were not surprising conditions at this time of year.

"Get out the topsail. You can set it however you want, except where it normally goes."

“Get out the topsail. You can set it however you want, except how it’s supposed to go.”

So we set it how we wanted.

So we set it how we wanted.

Clearwater's topsail set as a spinnaker.

Clearwater's enormous jib full of wind, as seen from the tip of the bowsprit.

Clearwater’s enormous jib full of wind, as seen from the tip of the bowsprit.

A pretty nice day after all.

A pretty nice day after all.

Oct 102012
 

I’m trying to get myself back into regular posting amidst a busy fall season and limited internet access, so I thought posting some random photos from the last couple of months on Clearwater would be a nice start…

Coffee and work.

Coffee and work.

The government won't set you free. Chores will set you free.

The government won’t set you free. Chores will set you free.

Unfouling the pennant at anchor.

Unfouling the pennant at anchor.

 

Aug 192012
 

When I was on Windeward Bound, I had an idea to post about all of the little innovations and solutions I saw on Winde for problems or annoyances I’d experienced on other boats. Things got busy and I never got around to it, but I’ve had the same thought about Clearwater after seeing so many clever improvements to old designs. Here are some shots of the best new twists on old ideas. I think the gem of the bunch is the leak-free butterfly hatch.

Dorade boxes: A dorade box is a very cool invention itself. It allows ventilation below decks without letting rain and spray in. These are the first I've seen with clear "roofs", allowing light below decks in addition to fresh air.

Dorade boxes: A dorade box is a very cool invention itself. Below the "trumpet" is a hole in the box, offset from the visible one in the deck, allowing ventilation below decks without letting rain & spray in. These are the first I've seen with clear "roofs", allowing light below decks in addition to fresh air.

Butterfly hatches: These beautiful contraptions are found on so many traditional boats. They also let light and air below decks, but I've never met one that doesn't leak. This is the most elegant and effective solution to butterfly hatch leaks I've ever seen. This looks to be a piece of 2" bronze pipe cut in half and set into the frame just below the hatch hinges.

Butterfly hatches: These beautiful contraptions are found on so many traditional boats. They also let air and light in below decks, but I've never met one that doesn't leak. The butterfly hatch on Clearwater doesn't leak! This is the most elegant and effective solution to butterfly hatch leaks I've ever seen. This looks to be a piece of 2" bronze pipe cut in half and set into the frame just below the hatch hinges.

Scrolling map: Switching between large-scale and small-scale charts is always a nuisance, but traveling up and down a river makes for a lot of chart changes.

Scrolling chart: Switching between large-scale and small-scale charts is always a nuisance, but travel along a river requires a particularly frequent change of charts.

Clearwater crew of years past constructed this scrolling chart by cutting and taping the necessary charts together to get them all the way from Albany to New York City without a chart swap.

Clearwater crew of years past solved the problem by cutting and taping the necessary charts together and binding the final product into this scrolling frame to allow them to get all the way from Albany to New York City without a chart swap.

 

Impermanent Chafe Gear: Chafing on lines, especially dock lines, is always a concern. On every boat I've been on, the issue was addressed with old fire hose cut into pieces and sometimes sewn around loosely, sometimes taped securely to the most chafed areas of line. Inevitably, chafe gear gets stuck in fair-leads or doesn't end up in the place it was meant to be.

Impermanent Chafe Gear: Chafing on lines, especially dock lines, is always a concern. On every boat I've been on, the issue was addressed with old fire hose cut into pieces and sometimes sewn, sometimes taped to the most chafed areas of line. Inevitably, chafe gear gets stuck in fair-leads or doesn't end up in the place it was meant to be.

On Clearwater, there is an additional challenge of a new dock with different chafe points every night. I think their solution is every bit as valuable on boats with a home port. They have a big bag of chafe gear that gets attached to chafe points after every sail. This ensures strong, happy dock lines with minimal wear every time.

On Clearwater, there is an additional challenge of a new dock with different chafe points every night. I think their solution is every bit as valuable on boats with a home port. They have a big bag of chafe gear that gets attached to chafe points after every sail. This ensures perfect placement of chafe gear every time, for happy, wear free dock lines.